Southern Mississippi digs out from powerful tornado

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 11 at 7:01 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Parts of south Mississippi are under a state of emergency. Sunday, a strong tornado touched down near Hattiesburg, injuring dozens of people, damaging homes and buildings and causing major power outages across a 75-mile path of destruction.

The University of Southern Mississippi campus took the brunt of the tornado which damaged six buildings there, including the historic Alumni Hall.

"That's part of the heart of this campus," said student Dakota Pressley. "It's sad, and just walking around, seeing Hattiesburg in such destruction, knowing this is our home, it's heartbreaking."

Students describe what it was like on campus when the tornado touched down.

"They came on the intercom and said everyone come downstairs right now, and soon as we sat down, five minutes later we heard a loud crash, and the tornado was right here," said D'Ebonie Johnson.

"We heard this huge boom and the walls started shaking," said Pressley.

Off campus, more than 50 roads, blocked by fallen trees and power lines and other debris, were closed for most of Monday. Many homes had roof and siding damage.

Brandon Sema said he's glad he wasn't home when a large pine tree nearly split his house in two.

"It sucks," said Sema. "I've been through a bunch of hurricanes, but never had anything happen to my own house."

More than 60 people were injured during the storm. There were no deaths.

Local officials say a tornado siren sounded about 30 minutes before then twister touched down, possibly saving lives.

"I've always said if we can get through these storms without any deaths and all we have to do is clean up the damage, it would be wonderful," said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham.

Latham toured the devastation with Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a USM alumni.

"These are determined people in Mississippi," said Bryant. "They are taking care of their own homes, reaching out to help their neighbors. I'm always very, very proud of them."

About 14,000 people lost power during the peak of the storm.

Two shelters opened up in the Hattiesburg area. Emergency managers say most of the power knocked out by the storm was expected to be restored Monday night.

 

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